Nominally on a holiday such as this I recount the history and foundation of the commemoration, the occasion. My full intent originally included the Treaty of Versailles, Armistice Day, the original Presidential proclamation, and the escalation between the acknowledgment of the end of the Great War and the inclusion of all American war heroes, or warriors to participate. Perhaps I will, or more likely the history will be told next year.
This year I casually read a chapter of Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, a chapter and passage chosen at random. A passage stuck out to me as instantly and wonderfully appropriate given the state of Western culture.
There are two Greek words: the ordinary word to kill and the word to murder. And when Christ quotes that commandment He uses the murder one in all three accounts, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And I am told there is the same distinction in Hebrew. All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery. When soldiers came to St. John the Baptist asking what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army: nor did Christ when He met a Roman sergeant-major-what they called a centurion. The idea of the knight-the Christian in arms for the defence of a good cause-is one of the great Christian ideas. War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken. What I cannot understand is this sort of semipacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it. It is that feeling that robs lots of magnificent young Christians in the Services of something they have a right to, something which is the natural accompaniment of courage- a kind of gaity and wholeheartedness. I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the first world war, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together a moment after death. I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it.
I really only mean to point out two things. The first is that killing is a difficult and extreme act in its scope, if taken in full perspective yet it is a necessity for many, an execution of responsibility taken up by heroes and we rarely appreciate the burden as much as we simply think of the risk of the soldiers’ own deaths. The second is that as grim as the responsibility is, and we must be grateful that they sacrifice some peace of mind for our liberty, we should never regard our protectors as mere destroyers. The operative method to protect the innocent is to destroy the predators and soldiers, Marines, and other servicemen should unconstrained, not overly restrained in the execution of these duties. “To kill people and break things,” as the saying goes. What veterans did and what the future veterans will do is that what must be done and as a matter of fact should not be treated with a hanging of millstones around necks, as these duties in and of themselves do not require acts that demand or obligate a man or woman to feel guilt. As such we certainly are obligated to let warriors not feel guilt for making war to save our liberty because no one needs to feel bad for protecting liberty.
Everyone remembers what is not free. It is a volunteer army (or military) and enjoying their brotherhood, camaraderie, that alone, is fantastic enough.
I should have just left it to C.S. Lewis.